I watched the latter half of Mona Lisa Smile with my dad last week, and I’ve been thinking about it since. I thought it was a pretty flimsy piece of feminist cinema if that’s how you want to look at it (why), and apparently many people on tumblr do, but if that’s what floats their boat then maybe flimsy is what it needed to be. Anyhow, there was a scene which drove me to “think about feminism”; it was a conversation between Julias Roberts and Stiles, which went like this:
–(Incidentally I’m pretty sure that dad picked it as our evening’s viewing because it has Julia Stiles, who is also in the Bourne trilogy, which we have seen actually innumerable times.)–
Roberts, the freewheelin’ 50s Woman Professor: You got married and you aren’t going to law school because Topher Grace’s career is more important to you than yours?? No!
Stiles, smart 50s girl-pupil: Yes I did and I think you’re mean for saying that’s a bad decision, because I want a nuclear family more than I want a law career and that DOESN’T mean I’m not SMART.
Roberts, realising she’s been OWNED: *hug*
Stiles, clearly an excellent never-to-be lawyer: *hug*
This is a bad conversation that’s made of straw but it’s a big one in the collective consciousness, innit? Like, “you strident feminists, you’re so invested in proving that WIMMIN R SMRT & STRONG that you want to ruin the lives of those who choose to conform! Booo”
I guess “feminism” as a word doesn’t really mean anything without context but ‘feminism’ the galactic concept slash movement is not, I think, looking at things thinking how can we prove that ladybrains are highly powered, so that we win boasting rights against men?. [Academic feminism?] is much more of a how can we ensure that women are able to seek a life that will engage and satisfy them, as many of our number are indeed so smart and thought-inclined, delighting in a challenge, in ways that the housewife role may struggle to support?
This is obvious, but apparently it is not obvious enough that Hollywood cannot attempt to obscure it.
Let’s steal a moment from IMDB:
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I’d regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart.
It is not about making you less smart. It’s about worrying your smartness will not find a home. Not about proving something by you: saving space FOR you. Think about that perhaps, Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal, writers.
I’ll tell you what I did like about the film: berets.
On the whole, though, can’t help but feel that the cast was wasted.